Idaho Legislature Passes COVID Liability Safe Harbor, General Election Support, as Special Session Ends

On Wednesday, the Idaho House introduced compromise legislation to provide limited liability protection or civil immunity for damages or an injury resulting from exposure to the corona virus.  The compromise bill, H.B. 6, was passed on a 54-15-1 vote, which broke down mostly along party lines.  The legislation extends civil immunity for unknown or unintentional COVID-19 transmissions for individuals, businesses, organization, schools, churches and other entities.  The legislation, passed by the House, does not provide liability protection to Idaho public health districts, the Idaho state government or its non-educational agencies, the federal government or its agencies, nor any foreign government or foreign jurisdiction.

Later Wednesday evening, the Senate took additional public testimony on H.B. 6, which was followed by the committee recommending the bill be passed by the full Senate.  The Senate debated the legislation for a short period of time and it was eventually passed on a 27-7 margin.  The COVID-19 liability safe harbor legislation now goes to the Governor for his review, where he is expected to the sign the bill into law.    

Earlier in the week, both the House and the Senate had introduced and passed legislation to ensure Idahoans always have an opportunity to vote in-persons notwithstanding a state of emergency.  Moreover, legislation was considered and passed to provide security and efficiency measures in collecting and counting absentee ballots.  These measures were agreed to by both House and Senate, and now travel to Governor Little’s desk for final consideration and potential signature into law.  

In the final hours of the Special Session, there was an effort by the Idaho House to end Governor Little’s state of emergency via a concurrent resolution between both bodies (HCR 1). The resolution passed the House on 48 – 20 vote; however, the Senate took a different tact in their opinions of how to manage the state of emergency. The Idaho Senate, following an Attorney General’s opinion, determined HCR 1 was likely unconstitutional for them to pass anything on a topic that the Governor did not specify could be managed during a special session. Instead, the Senate passed an individual resolution (SR 101) encouraging the Governor to end the state of emergency when it was safe and responsible to do so, but they focused more on the several issues the Senate intends to take up during the 2021 Regular Session. The Senate made it know that they intend to curb the power of the Executive Branch, call themselves back into Special Session, reduce authorities of public health districts as well as certain local government subdivisions.   

The Special Session sine’ die adjourned at 9:18 pm on Wednesday night.

Posted in Advocacy on the Move.